In anticipation for the President’s State of the Union address, CNN’s CROSSFIRE hosts S.E. Cupp, Stephanie Cutter, Newt Gingrich, and Van Jones submit—exclusively to The Daily Beast—their predictions, recommendations, and policy “wish list” for this evening’s address.
As an exercise—and not just an attempt to recapture my slowly diminishing youth—I'll be watching the President's State of the Union address through millennial eyes.
For a demographic that so wholly and emotionally invested in President Obama's "hope and change" agenda, it's a pretty damning and significant development that over the course of the past year, millennials have grown increasingly skeptical—if not downright dismissive—of the Obama's second term promises.
There's a whole host of reasons why the President is bleeding millennial voters. They realize Obamacare will not make their healthcare more affordable nor will it increase quality of care. And, not surprisingly, they don't very much like the idea of buying a product they don't think they need to subsidize other consumers.
Obama's also losing millennials on consistently undelivered promises to lower the cost of higher education, increase millennial labor participation and roll back burdensome taxes and regulations that punish their entrepreneurial spirit. They also don't take too kindly to Obama's NSA spying program, incidentally. In short, they are not impressed with big government at work.
If Democrats want to preserve this valuable voting demographic—they are the largest generation in history—President Obama needs to speak directly to them, and explain why, despite failed promises, they should continue to vote D.
What do I want to hear? Predictions?
I’ve worked on more than a half dozen State of the Union speeches throughout my career, and the one thing that’s always important to remember is that the President isn’t speaking to the folks in the room; he’s speaking to families watching at home. It’s one of the few times in a presidency when there is an unfiltered audience the president can speak to, and I’m confident he’ll take advantage of it.
With that audience in mind, I hope to hear how the President will bypass Washington gridlock and get some things done. Executive actions are an important prerogative of any president, and often move the country forward when Congress won’t act. In the second term of President Clinton’s presidency—when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate—we never stopped trying to work with Congress but relied on executive actions when congressional politics ground things to a halt. We improved healthcare, grew economy for the middle class, lifted people out of poverty and protected public health and the environment.
I predict that President Obama will take a similar approach. Although the door is open to any member of Congress who wants to work together to get something done, the country so clearly won’t wait while tea party and establishment Republicans battle among themselves about whether to work in bipartisanship or just worry about the next election. There are great things we can do over this next year: take action on climate change, pass immigration reform, invest in the Middle class and reform job training and other programs to move the long-term unemployed into jobs of the future. It’s always better if we can do them together—Democrats and Republicans—but the President should take action on his own if those across the aisle choose, once again, to sit this year out.
As the President speaks, we will be experiencing one of the coldest winters in recent history. I would like to hear President Obama reconcile these weather events with both his global warming fears and his anti-energy policies, including his thoughts on the propane shortage, which is driven by the extraordinarily cold weather. In researching my book, Breakout (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2013), I described how a lot of the estimates and predictions for resources have changed markedly over time as we’ve developed better technologies for recovering oil and natural gas. We need a comprehensive energy strategy—informed by the latest science and research—instead of the old, tired arguments against more exploration and development.
Most importantly, the biggest issue facing the country is our stubborn, stagnant unemployment. I think we need an entirely fresh, new approach to re-training and educating the long-term unemployed to meet the demands of the modern economy. I’d like to see the President support making job training and career education a requirement for long-term financial compensation. This is in the best interest of the country. For example, 99 weeks of unemployment is enough time for an associate’s degree—and there are breakthroughs in education—via online learning and apprenticeships—that make achieving higher education realistically attainable for more people.
My prediction is the President will be cautious on specifics for immigration reform and will encourage the House Republicans to move a bill—or, several bills.
I predict that President Obama will single out individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by Obamacare. Meaning, I wish the President would tell us more success stories. These State of the Union's always become these laundry lists of tasks and ideas. I know it is 99.9% certain to happen again, as he aims to appease all of the departments and agencies. But nobody remembers that stuff. I hope he will include some stories of ordinary Americans whose lives are being improved by Obamacare and other policies he has implemented—and who need more common sense measures like jobs through infrastructure and education.
I wish President Obama would call for a bipartisan approach to cut the prison population in half—while improving public safety at a lower cost. He could praise Texas for moving in this direction, while applauding Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich for calling for smart reform. Conservatives should hate the amount of money we waste on prison bureaucrats, with a lousy return on investment. I also think more programs and initiatives focused on helping low-opportunity youth get access to computer training needs to be a priority for both parties. I am actually currently working on a campaign, #YesWeCode which is a national initiative established to teach 100,000 low-opportunity youth to code.
CROSSFIRE airs weeknights on CNN/U.S. at 6:30pm Eastern.